Sunday, 26 February 2012

Quake claims more victims as rare birds die

By Jeff Hampton
The Christchurch earthquakes have claimed more victims after thousands of birds have died of a disease that has gripped wetlands around the city.

The number of birds affected is more than died in the Rena oil spill, and rare species such as the royal spoonbill are among the worst hit.

Tests are still being done but it is suspected a disease called avian botulism is responsible for the deaths and the problem is being blamed on the earthquakes which badly damaged the sewerage systems in Christchurch's east.

And now the sewage levels have risen in the wetlands in Christchurch's east where the birds live, and also in the nearby council oxidation ponds.

Among those species hardest hit are the paradise shelduck, of which more than 1400 have died totaling 85 percent of the population there.

Half the mallards that live there have also died as well as smaller numbers of the royal spoon bill and pukeko.
 “They're nationally important wetlands so perhaps they waited quite a long time before stepping in to do something about it,” says fish and game officer, Brian Ross.

Removing the dead bodies of the birds is one way to reduce the casualties, as birds feed on maggots that carry the disease, and the Christchurch City Council says it is finding fewer dead birds and hopes the number if deaths is in decline.

http://www.3news.co.nz/Quake-claims-more-victims-as-rare-birds-die/tabid/1160/articleID/244229/Default.aspx 

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